Television and movies have always theorized how virtual reality would impact society. What used to be science fiction is science fact especially with virtual reality in construction. Most of the applicable technology is several years away from commercial consumption. However, in the demonstrations, tests, and case studies show that there will be a permanent place for it within the construction industry. Virtual reality is slowly making an impact on the construction industry but will one day be a significant tool in most construction company’s toolbox.
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How Virtual Reality in Construction Works
Virtual reality is a newer technology that is prominent in gaming, entertainment, and gaining popularity in construction. Virtual reality uses computers to create a three-dimensional simulated world. The goal is for people to be able to explore and manipulate the computer world as if they are truly there. Most people probably lumps a couple of different products in with virtual reality.
One of the common methods for virtual reality in construction is the headsets. Whether it is linked to a computer or on the phone, this method is more traditional and true virtual reality. Another typical product is augmented reality. Augmented reality adds computer-generated elements to already existing features. So, users can still see their current location, but designers overlay details on top of the image. It still requires people to wear some helmet, glass, or phone to be able to work.
Virtual reality in construction is common in the design phase, while augmented reality is common in the construction phase. Designers use virtual reality to showcase their plans and get input from clients and consumers. Construction managers, superintendents, and foremen use augmented reality on job sites to see how the next phase of construction fits into what they already constructed.
Designers and Designs
Starting from the beginning of a construction project, one of the first areas that are seeing an influx in the use of virtual reality in construction is design. Designers are starting to use virtual reality technology to help clients and potential clients envision how the project is supposed to work. Using BIM, or 3D models, designers can give tours of the spaces. Collaborators can even use the tools to determine whether the design is constructible.
For hospital renovations and other projects where space and placement are paramount, virtual reality in construction stands to be a driving force. In 2015, Boston Children’s Hospital did a series of cardboard mock ups. Doctors and nurses went through surgeries and other daily tasks to determine whether the plan would work. Due to their work, the doctors and nurses were able to provide useful feedback on the plan. This produced a better building overall.
Project managers and designers use virtual reality to accomplish similar feats. For hospitals, doctors and nurses can be brought in to a space and use virtual reality to determine whether it will work. Using virtual reality in construction can prevent rework or additional projects to fix unforeseen issues with a building.
Project managers increase accuracy by using virtual reality in construction. Several construction companies have been able to use a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality to increase project accuracy. Some companies use drones and other advanced photography techniques to photograph the entire site on a regular basis. This allows them to use a current simulation of the project. By overlaying that simulation with the original plan data, they can determine how the project is shaping up to the plan. In one instance, a company saw that the team broke ground just short of where the plan initially stated. By recognizing this error, they were able to correct the rest of the project and prevent further misalignment.
Another company in Rhode Island was able to use augmented reality to prevent rework. They realized the steel beams ordered were too large for the building. They figured this out by using augmented reality at the site, overlaying the planned steel beams with the current structure. When they did this, they realized that the beam wouldn’t fit and was able to contact the manufacturer to have them fixed. Because of augmented reality, they were able to prevent potential issues and delays at the site.
Virtual reality saved several many companies using it a lot of money. In many cases, the amount of rework cut more than doubles what they paid for in virtual reality equipment. Cutting edge construction companies investing in this technology are leaders in a construction revolution that will benefit the industry for years to come. Virtual reality in construction has already proven itself to be a useful tool. While it is still a developing technology, the potential for every job site is massive. Virtual reality stands to be a highly influential technology within the construction industry.